I am contacting all of you in regard to Ben Stiller's new movie that is scheduled to be in theaters this Wednesday. It is called "Tropic Thunder." I was informed by the National Down Syndrome Society that there are significant portions of this movie that depict people with mental disabilities in an extremely derogatory light. The entire movie's premise is "actors making fun of actors" and "using extremes to make fun of movie plots", but part of this "poking fun" includes a pretend movie entitled "Simple Jack." There is one particular conversation in the movie between Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr that discusses Stiller's character acting in "Simple Jack" which is a movie that outwardly exemplifies prejudices and stereotypes of people who have mental disabilities. The derogatory word "retard" is used repeatedly and in a negative connotation to those who have a disability. I specifically viewed a clip of this portion of the movie and I was horrified and disgusted. There is one particular part of the clip where Downey Jr says "nobody goes full retard" and means that when you play that role in a movie, you never are completely changed into that particular character, where Stiller felt like he was "stupid" or in his words "retarded" as a result of playing Simple Jack. There are many more parts within this movie that are extremely offensive in the same nature.
As a mom of a child with down syndrome, I was so disheartened and disappointed that the stereotypes and ignorance that I try to combat every day of my life within the community were going to be featured, highlighted, and even made to be "funny" on the big screen. I know Hollywood is anything but upstanding when it comes to morals and decency, but I feel the line needs to be drawn somewhere. It would not be acceptable for another minority group in our country to be disrespected, so why should it be any different for those with disabilities? Do people think they cannot voice their thoughts and defend themselves? If so, they are severely mistaken.
I ask you to spread the word about this movie to anyone you know as well as discuss it with your children who may be part of the target audience. This will not only result in less money that ends up in Ben Stiller's pocket, but it will also provide you with a "teachable moment" to open their eyes to the world around them.
Fara, Eric, Grace and especially Jackson Lippincott